When thinking of China, most outsiders think of food, dragons, pandas, kung fu, acupuncture and of course history. China holds the history card like no other with civilization claims dating back 5,000 years. However, most don’t stop to think that modern China (The People’s Republic of China) is still quite young. In fact, it will be celebrating its 65th anniversary this year. Comparing that with the United States, the U.S. is 4 times its elder.
What is interesting about the above fact is that China had a lot of catching up to do and it did so at a break neck speed four times faster. Due to this high rate of speed, in just one generation people have seen dramatic changes in the country, economy and standards of living. China still has a long way to go in many areas, but the transformation is truly amazing. As an American, I’d have to go back at least three generations of development to witness a comparable amount of economic and social change.
This is where the “time traveling” part comes into play. Since an equal amount of development took the U.S. 238 years, China did it in 65. This allowed China to skip many developmental steps. For example, Chinese went from no phones in the household to cell phones. Most used neighborhood phones located outside the house at a newsstand for a per use fee. Internet and other technological advances are a similar story.
This is also true for many foreign brands. If their global popularity ended in or before the 1980’s then Chinese consumers skipped it. The great thing about this is that those brands having lost their way in the U.S. or other foreign markets, can find renewed life in China using their past history and time honored tradition to gain new followers.
Recently the Economist published a excellent article capturing the essence of the above in an piece entitled, “Chinese Consumers: Doing it their Way”. If you are interested in learning a bit more about the mindset of modern Chinese consumers check out the Economist’s article. CLICK HERE.
Disclaimer: the above and the article from the Economist are discussing the small percentage of China that have risen to middle class or above status. Although this percentage is the largest consumer base in the world, China still has hundreds of millions living in very poor conditions and have not yet tasted the above observations that are observed in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and other “Tier One” cities.